KJ Counts Down His Top Films of the Summer. Feel Free to Rant.
By Kevin Jahi Johnson
FRUITVALE STATION. THE WOLVERINE. DESPICABLE ME 2. LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. FRANCES HA. SHORT TERM 12. THE CONJURING. THIS IS THE END. BLUE JASMINE. BEFORE MIDNIGHT. These are all films I haven’t seen. Just missed ’em for whatever reason. This was a light movie summer for me, so light that I can’t in good conscience gripe about the state of cinema as a whole.
Good for me that I have a terrible conscience. Studios have relied on formula that resulted in action-y climax fatigue. But there’s always plenty of flavors in the theater; moviegoers just have to be willing to take a chance. Truth be told, these films don’t get discovered until DVD release or instant streaming.
But as for the films I did see, most were mixed bags. Half candy, half what-did-I-just-plunge-my-hand-into-gross-where’s-the-sink. Films were a place to escape; now, they’re must-see social events lest you get spoiled on Monday morning. And we’re so inured to the noise and flash, we don’t care about getting spoiled.
This year, I watched the entirety of THE WIRE, Season 3 of GAME OF THRONES, S1 of HOUSE OF CARDS, and am currently binge-watching BREAKING BAD. So, yeah, movies have a lot of catching up to do. FAST & FURIOUS 6 was as successful as it is because it has the longevity and narrative breadth of a television series as a foundation.
Which leads me to my top ten, a shaky listing as a ton of stuff went unseen. But hey, I dare not mention the stinkers, though some of you may count a few of my picks as stinkers. I’ll make this quick (too late) and concise (yeah, right.)
10. MAN OF STEEL: An apology for Superman Returns, and an aesthetic reboot of the DC Cinematic Universe as a whole. Loud and brutish where Reeve and Donner were mystical and charming, it gave audiences the red meat they wanted.
9. NOW YOU SEE ME: The definition of harmless fun. The plot made no sense, the charismatic cast were all smiles and flair, and the execution is a casebook on coulda-been-worse filmmaking. Redbox like a mofo.
8. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: The cinematic equivalent of an old friend telling you a bad joke. So much energy and pep. So much convolution and murkiness. But I loved the imagery, the music and seeing the crew of the Enterprise back. I can be bought.
7. THE GREAT GATSBY: A classic soundtrack reminiscent of sonic efforts from the 80’s & 90’s, when films were known for their soundtracks. The best screen introduction I’ve seen in decades, and a message still resonant to this day & age: don’t let money change you.
6. WORLD WAR Z: Saved by the script doctors, Brad Pitt’s ode to blockbuster filmmaking saved face by not insulting its audience, giving massive scale to the zombie genre undreamt of by many a geek, and a human touch to the carnage.
5. ELYSIUM: Not everyday you see a popcorn movie about illegal immigration and healthcare crises. But despite the heavy-handed messaging, Matt Damon’s everyman grounds the photo-real dystopia on display and leads moviegoers to ask questions about the future and where we’re headed.
4. FAST & FURIOUS 6: Not as fun as Fast Five, but just as cheesy, the cast reunites to blow more things up and spit in the face of the MPAA. As comforting as an old soap, and as brutal as a pro-wrestling match, the series sustains its good will, and hypes up demand for the next.
3. IRON MAN 3: The first post-crossover comic book movie is a good sign of things to come. Downey is Stark, and Marvel has perfected their blend of pyrotechnics and character pieces honed in the pages of yore. The best comic villain since Nolan’s Joker. Eh, if you think about it.
2. THE WORLD’S END: A decent Edgar Wright film is better than most films. A treatise on letting go of the past, healing old wounds, and the most destructive pub crawl ever. A summation of the themes in the Cornetto trilogy, but not a perfect summation. It has, however, my favorite scene of the summer. http://bit.ly/19P4aPm
1. PACIFIC RIM: I’m biased as a mug for this film. It’s everything I wanted to see on the big screen since the first time I saw a Megazord defend the good people of Angel Grove. Simple characters, yes, but the richness and creativity of Del Toro’s world building actualizes the dreams of anime/manga fans worldwide.
So, there you have it. I’ve gone soft, fine. But TV has so much good stuff, it’s getting really hard to argue against staying in. Creativity and nuance will make a return to the cinemas, but it will take moviegoers en masse voting with their wallets. I missed out on some really great films, though I saw plenty to leave a smile on my face.
NTF readers, let a dude know your picks. Pretty please no spoilers in the comments, and if there’s anything you’d like to check out this fall, let us know. Otherwise, I’mma get back to this Breaking Bad (S02E03, an amazing episode). PEACE!